Cycling footwear has to cater for all types of disciplines styles of pedals. The main feature is to protect the foot from damage. Many high end road and MTB cycling shoes have a stiff carbon sole to help keep the foot rigid and enable the rider to transfer as much power as possible through the pedals with no compromise. Downhill and BMX shoes are made from a strong rubber sole where there are options to fit cleats depending on your personal preference.
Cycling footwear is designed to help keep your foot in the right position when on the bike. A lot of cyclists choose to 'clip in' to the pedals so that they get a better pedalling motion. Being clipped into the pedal allows the rider to pull up as well as pushing down on the pedal without the risk of the foot coming off the pedal.
Cycling footwear can come with many options for fastening the shoe. There are systems called boa systems, laces, velcro and ratchet type fastenings. The materials used again can vary from lightweight breathable materials to kangaroo leathers.